Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes Chick Corea, pianist and composer

Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea (1941-2021), circa 1975
Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea (1941-2021), circa 1975

Yesterday’s Music History Monday post celebrated the birth of the American pianist and composer Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea (1941-2021), in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  A good bit of that post was spent discussing Corea’s stunning versatility as a pianist and composer: he could play the piano and compose for the piano in almost any conceivable style.  This versatility was a function of his talent, of his training, and of his omnivorous musical appetite: when it came to music in general and jazz in particular, Corea consumed and internalized it all.  The result is a body of music so varied that many commentators appear to spend more time categorizing it than actually listening to it.  

(I say that because if they actually listened to and thought about Corea’s music, they’d realize that for all its stylistic variety Chick Corea’s music always sounds like Chick Corea’s music, its “stylistic category” notwithstanding.) 

Corea addressed this issue in an interview conducted in 2010:

“I’m often asked about what others consider my diversity of tastes. Actually, the simple, most truthful and direct answer is, I never think about it. I follow my interests and find that it leads me to trying to understand other cultures and the artists that create within them. Often, rather than seeing another way of music as only a ‘curiosity,’ I want to understand it more intimately — and that leads me to studying the music of and participating with the musicians of that culture.” 

Miles Davis (1926-1991) and Chick Corea in 1984
Miles Davis (1926-1991) and Chick Corea in 1984

The great Miles Davis (1926-1991) addressed Corea’s versatility this way after Corea joined his band in 1968: 

“[Chick] can play anything he wants to play, just like me. He’s a music lover.”

As for myself, I will happily admit that I’m a Chick Corea lover, and have been so since I bought a Stan Getz Quartet album entitled Sweet Rain around 1970, when I was 16 years old.  (That quartet, consisting of Stan Getz on tenor saxophone; Ron Carter on bass; Grady Tate on drums; and Chick Corea on piano, was as tight as a corset on Pavarotti.  Of the five cuts on the album, two are Corea originals, and they cook.  Given that Corea is not the bandleader on Sweet Rain, I will offer it up as a “bonus recommendation” at the conclusion of this post.)

Since I discovered him as a teenager, I’ve bought pretty much every Chick Corea album I could.  So bear with me while I offer up what I consider to be some of his most representative work – presented chronologically – with the understanding that the guy made something like 90 albums, and I’m featuring just five of them. 

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